After having a rather mediocre season in 2013, Detroit Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson is off to a very nice start to the 2014 campaign. He is currently batting .303 with an .843 OPS, and he seems to be much more comfortable now that he has finally been dropped from the leadoff spot down to the middle of the order.
Although Jackson will not necessarily “wow” people with his skills, he is a very good all-around player and he has been a solid contributor since putting on a Tigers uniform in 2010. He will become eligible for free agency after the 2015 season, and when one carefully examines what the Tigers’ outfield situation may look like in the coming years, signing him to an extension seems like it might be a pretty good idea.
Torii Hunter will, of course, become a free agent after the 2014 season, and although he appears to be getting even better with age, it remains to be seen whether the Tigers will re-sign him as they also have Victor Martinez to think about. Furthermore, Hunter will be celebrating his 40th birthday in the summer of 2015, and there is a question of how much longer he will be able to defy his age.
Rajai Davis is signed through the 2015 season, and although he is off to a spectacular start to the 2014 campaign, his track record suggests that he might be playing over his head and that he may come back to Earth sooner or later.
Andy Dirks, the man who Davis was originally slated to platoon with in left field, is scheduled to come off of the DL before the All-Star break, but no one is quite sure what to expect of him upon his return. After having a stellar 2012 campaign, Dirks struggled throughout much of the 2013 season and finished the year batting only .256 with nine home runs. Only time will tell if the Dirks of 2012 will ever show up again.
The power-hitting J.D. Martinez has been a nice addition to the Tigers since coming up from Triple-A Toledo, and he could potentially be seen as a candidate to win a job in the Tigers’ outfield next season as he seems to have massive untapped potential. However, he still has a lot to prove at the big-league level as well. In three years with the Houston Astros, Martinez was never able to translate his impressive minor league numbers to the big leagues, but perhaps he could be a late bloomer like Ryan Ludwick and Jayson Werth were.
Lastly, the Tigers have a few quality outfield prospects in the minor leagues, but none of them are exactly tearing it up at the moment. Daniel Fields and Tyler Collins have been scuffling a bit in Triple-A Toledo as they are currently batting .241 and .234, respectively. Steven Moya is also only batting .255 in Double-A Erie.
Therefore, with so many uncertainties regarding the Tigers’ future outfield, it would seem to make sense for the Tigers to offer Jackson an extension so he can serve as an anchor in center field in the coming years. Furthermore, he is still only 27 years old and it is very likely that his best baseball is still ahead of him.
Jackson should be able to command a pretty nice payday, but he certainly shouldn’t cost the Tigers “Mike Trout Money.” On paper, extending Jackson would seem to be a very sensible move for the Tigers and they should definitely begin thinking about it.